The Valdosta Daily Times
Bud Light Winter Heat returns tonight, and in a big way. Twelve mixed martial arts and one kickboxing event fill tonight’s fighting card at Mathis City Auditorium.
Doors will open at 6 p.m. and the fighting will begin at 7 p.m with the first female cage fight in Winter Heat history.
All of tonight’s proceeds benefit the House of Joy Community Center in Valdosta. All of the professional fighters from Valdosta, which include James Marino and Shaun Gay, the two headliner fighters tonight, have also donated their purse to the community center.
“I have to be honest, it was my idea to do it,” Marino said. “It is exciting to be part of something I believe in. MMA is a good sport — a great sport — and I love, as fighters, when we have a chance to show that we are more than people who want to beat each other up and that we are here to serve a discipline and that we are here to serve a cause.”
Marino is one of eight local fighters stepping into the ring tonight. Others include: Gay (Hall’s Fitness), Kelly Barcol (House of Joy/Crossfit Valdosta), EJ Kaku (House of Joy), Emily Parker (Hall’s Fitness), Rick Carter (House of Joy), Kenji Griffin (Champion MMA) and Nathan Barnes (Champion MMA).
Of the fights tonight, three will be professional bouts, including Gay’s fight against George Reagon, the headline fight of the night. Gay will put his Heat Promotions Title on the line as he comes out of retirement to participate in Winter Heat and fight in a Lightweight event.
“I’ve been looking to come back since June,” Gay said. “I started training real hard and cutting weight. I got to the point in my life where I needed to do something, because I got out of shape. When they announced they were going to have a Winter Heat in Valdosta, I had to do it.”
Gay said he doesn’t know much about Reagon, nor does he really care.
“Usually, I do research on my opponents, but this is one fight I didn’t care who they got me to fight,” Gay said. “I was supposed to fight someone from that Ultimate Fighting show.
“George has really good cardio and all his fights can go the distance, which means he could be hard to knock out or he hasn’t faced the right person. He also likes to strike, and you know me, I like to strike.”
Marino, who holds a 3-5 record as a professional, will face Harris Norwood of Jacksonville, Fla. Described as a “tough guy,” Norwood is similar to Marino in that they both like to throw punches.
(Harris) is kind of like me; he is tall, lean and he comes to throw punches, tie up and throw knees,” Marino said. “For me, it is just going to be another day at the park. This will be roughly my 31st, 32nd fight. To me, it is just another day. It is all about putting on a good show.”
The first female cage fight in Valdosta will feature Lowndes native Emily Parker, 21, in a kickboxing event to start the night’s festivities. Parker will face Ashley Hancock in the Light Featherweight event.
Other fights include: Kenji Griffin facing Ramon Mallory (Amateur, Light Heavyweight), Francisco Quidada versus Bill Vickers (Amateur), Rick Carter versus Josh Clanton (Amateur Lightweight), Anthony Mitchell versus Manny Cruz (Amateur Featherweight), Steven Niesielowski versus Alex Wade (Amateur Middleweight), Lei Ding versus Tony Davis (Amateur Welterweight), EJ Kaku versus Jermaine Tillman (Amateur Lightweight), Forrest Pettay versus Mike Boyett (Amateur Welterweight), Nathan Barnes versus Dean Grant (Professional Light Heavyweight), Kelly Barcol versus Bryant Meacham (Amateur Featherweight).
Tickets for the event remain on sale. They range anywhere from $25 to $100, depending on the location of the seats in relation to the cage. Tickets can be purchased at the door.
Valdosta native Brett Chism will not be fighting tonight, as he is still recovering from an injury from a previous fight. Chism will be in attendance tonight, supporting local fighters and many fighters he currently trains with at Hardcore Gym in Athens.